Get More Smarter on Monday (February 27)

Get caught up on your Colorado political news while you wait for that giraffe to give birth. Now, let’s see if we can’t Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump will deliver his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, and as the Washington Post reports, Trump will be rolling out some fuzzy maths:

President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official.

The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.

According to the White House, the defense budget will increase by 10 percent. But without providing any specifics, the administration said that most other discretionary spending programs will be slashed to pay for it. Officials singled out foreign aid, one of the smallest parts of the federal budget, saying it would see “large reductions” in spending.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is proving to be very popular…in cardboard form. As Congress returns to “work” after its President’s Day recess, the buzz surrounding Gardner’s constituent indifference is only growing louder. Multiple media outlets covered Friday’s “town hall” event in Denver that was staged without the freshman Senator. Here’s more from the Denver Post:

Coloradans packed Byers Middle School gym and cafeteria Friday evening for a town hall event to ask Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner questions regarding issues such as health care, climate change and immigration.

Gardner, who did not attend the event, was represented by a large cardboard cutout…

…many town hall attendees said they have not been able to get in touch with Gardner and feel he has been unresponsive. Christine Robinson, of Parker, said she has called his office twice a day for the last month and has protested or visited his office in Denver five times without any answers to her questions.

“I am not a paid protester,” she said while waiting in line, which wrapped around the block of the middle school. “We’re here to send a loud message — to listen to us. He does not want to.”

 

► Democrats are feeling increasingly optimistic about the chances of winning several races for Governor — including in Colorado — in 2018. From the Washington Post:

As the chairman-elect of the Democratic Governors Association, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will quarterback his party’s efforts in next year’s gubernatorial contests. To say he’s bullish would be an understatement. “Democrats are going to crawl across broken glass on their knees to go vote in 2018, if the conditions exist as they do today,” Inslee said during an interview yesterday afternoon at the J.W. Marriott, before he headed to the White House for a black-tie gala hosted by President Trump…

No one can predict what the political environment will be a year-and-a-half from now, but historically the president’s party loses seats in his first midterm. 

Even if Trump was a generic Republican, which he is most certainly not, the terrain was already going to be quite favorable for Democrats. They have just 16 governorships, a dozen fewer than when Barack Obama took office.

In a separate story, the Post discusses the “hold your nose” view of President Trump that may prove to be a significant barrier for re-election in 2020. As the New York Times notes, we should get the first sense of the power of an anti-Trump strategy in the Virginia Governor’s race.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Will The Legislature Finally Put a Stop to “Rolling Coal?”

“Rolling coal.”

The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports on the debate in the General Assembly over House Bill 17-1102, a second attempt by Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal to outlaw the modifications made to diesel vehicles allowing that to spew vast quantities of smoke with a flip of a switch–a practice known in the vernacular as “rolling coal.”

Given that being targeted with noxious fumes isn’t all Coloradans’ idea of fun, state lawmakers are taking a second shot at passing a bill that would make “coal rolling” – the act of using vehicle exhaust as a form of harassment – a traffic infraction with a $100 fine.

This is about public safety and public health, said Rep. Joann Ginal, a Fort Collins Democrat who showed three videos of people intentionally “rolling coal” at others during a hearing in the House Transportation and Energy Committee earlier this month.

The proposal isn’t about going after diesel trucks, Ginal told the committee. It’s more about those who modify their vehicles, usually either with a tailpipe or smokestack, in order to blast smoke at another driver, bicyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian or other human target.

Ginal said the request for the bill came from her local police department, and would give law enforcers a tool they can use when they see “coal rolling.”

Last year, legislation cracking down on “rolling coal” died in the Colorado Senate after passing the Democratic-controlled House. But this year, as the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, there’s a GOP co-sponsor in the Senate:

It’s the second year Ginal, D-Fort Collins, has run the bill. It stalled in the Senate transportation committee last session. This year, it has a Republican co-sponsor in Sen. Don Coram of Montrose.

If the bill becomes law, it would give police the ability to fine drivers who intentionally spew exhaust in a way that obstructs another person’s view, creates a safety hazard or in a manner that’s harassing to other cars or pedestrians. Violators would be fined $100.

Last year, Republicans took considerable fire for their decision to kill this bill, in effect siding with people who commit an act tantamount to vandalism–not to mention the negative public health effects of intentionally spewing black diesel smoke into the environment. It’s worth noting again that this is not legislation to further punish people with smoky vehicles due to age or poor maintenance. “Rolling coal” is made possible by a deliberate modification to the vehicle for the express purpose of…well, being an asshole.

So we’ll be watching closely to see if the GOP-controlled Senate lets the bill through this year.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 24)

It’s cold outside — colder than the reception you might receive if you tried to talk to Sen. Cory Gardner. Now, let’s see if we can’t Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has almost made it through the workweek recess without actually having to answer questions from real constituents about, well, anything. But Gardner’s consistent refusal to engage with the people he is supposed to represent is escalating into a full-out disaster for the first-term Senator, and the problem is only getting worse. On Thursday, multiple videos of Gardner evading a woman and her baby in a Broomfield hotel lobby became national news, with Gardner consistently brushing off questions by telling her — and other constituents — to just “go to my website” instead.

Gardner’s constituent indifference has become a national story.

 

► Once upon a time (also known as January), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) promised to hold a big town hall meeting before Congress votes on a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Coffman didn’t make any effort to hold a town hall meeting during the current President’s Day recess, but as Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman, Team Coffman says there will be an event in April:

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman plans to hold a traditional town hall in April, when the Aurora Republican will be at home in his district during a scheduled congressional recess, his aides said Friday.

Coffman spokesman Daniel Bucheli told The Colorado Statesman that Coffman is looking for the right venue and nailing down the date for a town hall, likely sometime during the second full week of April. He was confirming an announcement made by campaign aide J.D. Key Friday morning at a GOP breakfast meeting in Highlands Ranch.

The immediate question, of course, is whether or not this means that Congress will not be voting on a potential repeal of Obamacare in the next 6-8 weeks; Coffman promised to hold a big town hall meeting before a potential vote on repealing the healthcare law. Coffman could have just been blowing smoke up everyone’s you-know-what, which the Congressman has been known to do, but this promise would be harder to walk back given the steady crowds trying to contact their elected officials across the country.

 

► It would not be a complete surprise if Congress is unable to take action on repealing Obamacare, as Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) seemed to indicate earlier this week. Former House Speaker John Boehner was widely quoted on Thursday laughing at the idea that Republicans could coalesce around a single idea on health care reform. Meanwhile, Politico reports on a new draft document outlining another potential GOP healthcare plan:

A draft House Republican repeal bill would dismantle Obamacare subsidies and scrap its Medicaid expansion, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by POLITICO.

The legislation would take down the foundation of Obamacare, including the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high-risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Some elements would be effective right away; others not until 2020.

The replacement would be paid for by limiting tax breaks on generous health plans people get at work — an idea that is similar to the Obamacare “Cadillac tax” that Republicans have fought to repeal.

Speaker Paul Ryan said last week that Republicans would introduce repeal legislation after recess. [Pols emphasis] But the GOP has been deeply divided about how much of the law to scrap, and how much to “repair,” and the heated town halls back home during the weeklong recess aren’t making it any easier for them.

The basis of the leaked plan is, essentially, to tax healthcare plans for “cost containment” while doing nothing to address coverage. This won’t end well.

 

► The Trump administration on Thursday made it clear that the President plans to crack down on the recreational marijuana industry.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Rewarding The Worst Possible Behavior in Politics

One of the top stories of the 2016 elections in Colorado centered on a campaign mounted in a key Colorado Senate race, swing suburban Senate District 19 in Arvada, attacking the Democratic challenger in that race now-Sen. Rachel Zenzinger. The allegation that Zenzinger had “voted to spend taxpayer money on a trip to China” as an Arvada city councillor had been thoroughly debunked years before, but the Republican Senate 527 group Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government chose to recycle the charge in 2016 for Zenzinger’s rematch against incumbent GOP Sen. Laura Woods.

In 2016, this line of attack was prosecuted by CCAG with an audacity that shocked the local media out of its usual complacency about bogus claims in elections. After Denver7’s Politifact Colorado rated the whole accusation “Pants on Fire” false, citing Zenzinger’s stand against using tax dollars for the trip and the fact that the trip never even happened, CCAG actually used copy from that fact-check in another ad doubling down on the lie.

Perhaps the worst moment in this campaign arrived as small cardboard boxes in SD-19 mailboxes containing a fortune cookie “to commemorate Rachel Zenzinger’s vote for a taxpayer-funded trip to China.” This, along with another mailer that featured Zenzinger wearing a Vietnamese straw hat, introduced an ugly racist element to the message.

A complaint to Jefferson County’s elected Republican district attorney citing Colorado law against knowingly false statements in electioneering of course went nowhere, but the campaign ultimately backfired as press stories about the thoroughly false nature of the claim spread much more widely than the mailers themselves were seen by SD-19 voters. In particular, deceptively quoting from the fact-check that debunked the claim in a subsequent mailer struck Politifact Colorado and others as unacceptably contemptuous of the media’s responsibility to keep politics honest–which resulted in more bad press.

Rachel Zenzinger won this election, in no small part due to the backlash against CCAG’s false and racially charged ad campaign. The bad press Republicans earned for the campaign far exceeded any rational benefit. In all of our years covering Colorado politics, this is one of the worst message campaigns we’ve ever seen; and the proof is in the results.

So why are we bringing this up now, you ask?

Because the prestigious political insider publication Campaigns & Elections just awarded this campaign, in particular the fortune cookie mailer, Best Mail Piece For Independent Expenditure Campaign for the 2016 elections.

That’s right, folks! A campaign that was so centered on lies and prejudice that the local media blew it out of the water, and may have cost the candidate it was supporting re-election, has just been held up nationally as an example of how to do it right.

Who knows? Maybe the results of the elections nationally last year stripped the political operator class of their last shreds of objectivity or integrity. But for ourselves, if this is now the right way to do politics, we don’t want to do it right.

We’d prefer to tell the truth, sleep at night, and win the election.

Deep Jeffco Bench Ready For Perlmutter’s Next Move

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Statesman reports on the next generation of Colorado Democrats in Jefferson County, waiting to move up in the event Rep. Ed Perlmutter makes the decision to run for Governor in 2018:

Two Lakewood Democrats say they’re likely to run next year for the 7th Congressional District seat represented by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter if the six-term incumbent Democrat jumps in the race for governor.

State Rep. Brittany Pettersen told The Colorado Statesman this week that she will run for the suburban congressional seat if Perlmutter seeks the gubernatorial nomination in 2018, and state Sen. Andy Kerr told The Statesman he’s “very seriously looking at it.”

The two legislators share many of the same constituents — Kerr held Pettersen’s House District 28 seat for three terms before winning an open seat in the upper chamber in 2012 — and both say their ability to win in their own swing districts means they’d be contenders for Perlmutter’s suburban swing seat.

Although Rep. Perlmutter’s seat is on-paper competitive, his strong leadership and deep ties to his Jefferson County constituents have made CD-7 completely unwinnable for the GOP since defeating Rick O’Donnell for Bob Beauprez’s open seat in 2006. The last real attempt at the seat was in 2012, when the late Joe Coors lost to Perlmutter 53-41%. Since then Perlmutter has faced only B-List opposition.

With that said, we do expect that Perlmutter giving up the CD-7 seat to run for Governor would embolden Republicans to make another attempt. Either Sen. Andy Kerr or Rep. Brittany Pettersen would make for excellent general election candidates against any Republican we could think of who might run–especially in potential matchups against Tim Neville, Lang SiasLibby Szabo, and other early names that have been floated.

With the biggest variable everyone is waiting on being Rep. Perlmutter’s next move, we don’t expect to see any major updates in this race until he makes his decision–a decision that reportedly depends on whether former Sen. Ken Salazar decides to run for Governor. But if Perlmutter does jump, there is a deep bench in Jefferson County waiting to fill resulting vacancies all the way down the ticket.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 22)

If George Washington were still alive today, perhaps he would celebrate his birthday in a fashion that befits “National Margarita Day.” Now, let’s see if we can’t Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado’s ongoing budget problems and the need for TABOR reform has not gone unnoticed by Republican lawmakers. Unfortunately, GOP leaders at the State Capitol — including Senate President Kevin Grantham — are not at all interested in doing anything about the problem.

 

► Is anybody home at the State Department? As CNN reports, foreign policy experts are concerned about the radio silence from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his debut on the international stage over two days in Europe last week — and said less than 50 words in response to press questions, according to pool accounts. On Wednesday, he departs for Mexico — a trip Americans first learned of from the Mexican press…

…That silence may reflect ongoing upheaval in the Trump White House, administration power struggles, Tillerson’s personal inclinations or the growing pains of a former ExxonMobil CEO adjusting to running a governmental organization. Regardless of the reason, diplomats, analysts and current and former State Department officials say there are risks if the dead air continues.

A voiceless State Department, they say, allows other countries to set the narrative about US policy and events, unsettling allies and potentially shortchanging US businesses, citizens and interests overseas.

 

► A 9News “Truth Test” uncovers something you probably won’t be surprised to learn: Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) does not have anything resembling a plan for the repeal and/or replacement of Obamacare, despite what you may have heard from some paid media ads running in the Denver area. More paid media could be in the works as well, as the Washington Post reports:

The American Action Network, founded by veteran GOP fundraisers to support the speaker’s agenda, will spend $2.2 million on TV and digital buys over the next two weeks to promote GOP efforts related to overhauling the law across two dozen media markets. That’s in addition to $5.2 million already spent on Obamacare-related advertising since the start of the year…

…Politically, lawmakers are trying to soothe fears among voters that they are going to scrap the law without a clear roadmap for what comes next. While some of the opposition efforts at town hall meetings are being organized by progressive outside groups, there is also organic anxiousness. Our reporters who have fanned out across the country report back that many people they’re interviewing have never before attended these sorts of meetings.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows that SUPPORT for Obamacare continues to rise in the United States.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

GOP Lawmakers Say Reform TABOR! GOP Leaders Say, “Meh”

Colorado Senate President Snidely Whiplash Kevin Grantham.

Peter Marcus of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the ongoing effort by a pair of Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, to enact a change to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that would allow the state to keep more revenue when economic times are good–by changing TABOR’s revenue cap growth index from the rate of inflation plus population to the growth of personal incomes in the state.

Senate Republican leadership on Tuesday described an effort to reform TABOR as “interesting,” though leaders say it is not representative of the majority of the caucus’ priorities.

Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City responded when asked about the proposal, which has sponsorship from two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa.

The lawmakers are proposing that the state’s spending cap under TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution — be tied to personal income rather than the current formula: inflation plus population change. The idea is that government would be allowed to grow when economic times are good…

Crowder and Thurlow have both ran afoul of conservative advocacy groups at the state capitol over stands that deviated from the hard party line. Crowder in particular angered well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity with his DOA proposal last year to exempt the state’s hospital provider fee from TABOR’s revenue limit, one of the biggest public breaks for a Republican from the pro-TABOR orthodoxy since 2005’s Referendum C backed by then-Gov. Bill Owens. Like in 2005, what we’re seeing today is TABOR forcing an arbitrary limit on revenue the state can keep–creating the bizarre conundrum of meager tax refund checks going out to citizens while basic functions of government face heavy budget cuts.

So it’s great to see this effort from two Republican lawmakers to make a small but sensible change to TABOR: one that preserves the law’s stated objectives, while not imposing a limit to revenue growth that deprives the state of the ability to carry out essential functions to serve our growing population. But unfortunately, Thurlow’s and Crowder’s good intentions are hitting a wall with the GOP leadership in the Colorado Senate:

“It’s an interesting concept,” [Senate President Kevin] Grantham said. “We have to look at what’s the end result of what this bill will do. The end result will be more money out of taxpayer’s pockets. They like to call that state revenue. When I hear that, I hear money out of taxpayer’s pockets.” [Pols emphasis]

And with that, any chance of an adult discussion of this Republican-authored proposal to help the state to carry out its basic responsibilities…evaporates.

Better luck in 2019, we guess.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 21)

You have only one shopping day left until George Washington’s birthday. Now, let’s see if we can’t Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congress is taking a break for its annual President’s Day Recess, but that doesn’t necessarily mean elected officials such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are likely to make themselves available to constituents. As the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, local residents are so incensed with Gardner’s inaccessibility that they are planning their own town hall meeting as protest. The Denver Post has more on Friday’s town hall meeting (sans Gardner):

Organizers invited U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who declined, but Farnan said it’s important to hold it anyway so that residents can share their ideas and demonstrate that town halls still matter.

“You should be standing in front of your constituents and hear what they have to say as long as it’s civil and respectful,” Farnan said.

Aides to Gardner said the Republican senator has meetings this week with the Colorado Space Coalition, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Colorado Health Care Association — to name a few — but no public forums. [Pols emphasis]

But they defended his outreach efforts and noted his past use of telephone town halls, a tool that has become an increasingly popular substitute on Capitol Hill.

You may not have any real access to your own U.S. Senator, but if you’re lucky, you might get invited to listen to him talk on the telephone! That’s pretty much the same, right?

Unfortunately for Sen. Gardner, this routine is wearing thin across the state. In the meantime, Colorado residents show no sign of letting up on demonstrations and protests.

 

► Before leaving Washington D.C. last week, House Republicans released a vague outline of a proposal about what to do with Obamacare if they end up repealing the health care law. On Monday, former South Carolina governor and current Rep. Mark Sanford admitted in a television interview that he could not guarantee that the Republican health care plan would allow all Americans to keep their current health insurance coverage.

As The Hill explains, Republicans may have a hard time convincing constituents that this vague new plan is even half-baked.

 

► We all know that campaign finance loopholes are big enough to accommodate whatever metaphor you prefer, but some paid campaigns are so brazenly sketchy that it’s hard to believe they could exist. For example, this barrage of advertisements promoting Walker Stapleton’s campaign for Governor apparent interest in term limits. The intent is so obvious that even Republican-aligned groups like Compass Colorado can’t help but applaud the name recognition boost for Stapleton.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (February 17)

Have a nice President’s Day Weekend; try the meatloaf. Now, let’s see if we can’t Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► As the Associated Press reported this morning, President Trump is considering mobilizing the National Guard — as many as 100,000 troops — to undertake mass deportation efforts across the country. Colorado is one of the states listed in the draft memo obtained by the AP.

Again: The President of the United States of America is considering deploying the military to conduct mass roundups and deportations across the country. This is all kinds of wrong.

 

A “shit sandwich.” That’s how Vice Admiral Robert Harward viewed an offer from President Trump to become the next National Security Adviser — an offer Harward publicly declined — which leaves the Trump administration scrambling to find another candidate for one of the most important jobs in the White House. The resignation of former NSA Michael Flynn highlights a massive credibility problem among national security experts, as the Washington Post explains:

Multiple former national security experts conjectured that the hang-up specifically was Trump’s deputy national security adviser, KT McFarland, a TV commentator who has not served in government since the Reagan era. Few foreign policy professionals consider her qualified for the job. [Pols emphasis]

…Harward certainly knows the struggles that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson have had hiring their own staff — neither has an announced deputy; Harward was not about to subject himself to the same micromanaging from the White House. Former State Department official and vocal Trump critic Eliot Cohen says, “It makes it very difficult for any serious person to take the job under less reasonable conditions than Harward seems to have demanded, i.e., control of staffing.” He explains, “No sane person would take this extremely important and difficult job without (a) control of staffing, and (b) eliminating or neutering Bannon’s shadow NSC staff.” …

…Harward’s decision reflects how far the president and this administration have fallen in the eyes of esteemed national security experts, including current and former officials. The White House is without an experienced chief of staff or normal internal decision-making procedures. [Pols emphasis]

 

► Congress is preparing for its annual President’s Day recess, which will keep lawmakers out of the nation’s capitol until February 27. Before he skipped out of town, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) released a video in which he declares that he will not support a repeal of Obamacare without a concurrent replacement plan. The New York Times on Thursday reported on a potential new GOP healthcare plan that would redirect money from the lower- and middle-class to the benefit of the wealthy in America.

 

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Worst Construction Defects Bill Ever?

Denver’s Beauvallon, a construction-defects horror story.

Denver7’s Lance Hernandez reports–the issue of reforming state law as it pertains to homeowner rights to sue builders over defects in the construction of their homes, in particular multifamily residential developments, has been an annual flashpoint in the Colorado General Assembly for several years. Lobbyists for construction companies claim it’s “too easy” to sue over defects, while homeowners say the only “problem” is that builders don’t want to stand behind their work.

After some talk of bipartisanship on the issue early in the session, Republicans in the Colorado Senate “moved beyond” the compromise that had been agreed upon between themselves and the Democratic House, and introduced legislation that would crack down on homeowner’s rights. Among those bills, GOP Sen. Jack Tate’s Senate Bill 155 might be the shortest in length–and the most brazen in terms of screwing homeowners:

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Weld County, seeks to redefine the term “construction defect” to mean, “a defect in the design or construction of any improvement to real property that causes damage, the loss of use or personal injury.”

“It’s absurd,” said Fort Collins homeowner Michael Pretz. “You have to have a bad outcome before you can consider it a construction [defect].”

Pretz said he and his neighbors sued their developer because some of the attics in their townhomes didn’t have adequate drywall between the firewalls, and because retaining walls were not built with adequate anchors.

“I worked in the fire service for 35 years,” he said. “When you get a fire that goes unchecked from unit to unit, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Pretz said under this proposed bill, you wouldn’t have any recourse unless there was a fire that caused significant damage. [Pols emphasis]

Requiring homeowners to suffer the consequences from a construction defect before being able to sue to fix it goes against any reasonable policy goal of harm reduction–for the sole purpose of reducing the liability of construction companies to situations where their shoddy workmanship has actually hurt people. We think most people would agree it’s a lot better to get a known construction defect fixed before it hurts people, even if that’s maybe not the most financially advantageous situation for construction companies.

It’s one of those bills that’s so bad you can hardly believe a legislator had the gall to put their name on it.

And yet here we are.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 16)

It would certainly be hard for things to Get More Dumber at this point, so let’s see if we can’t Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► So…that didn’t go well. President Trump held his first solo press conference as a resident of the White House, and it’s almost like he’s daring someone to declare that he is unfit for office. Put it this way: If you had to place a bet on whether or not Trump would make it through his first term in office, would you really put big money on “YES”?

Did you vote for Donald Trump for President?” could be the most important question for Colorado political candidates in 2018. That’s one big orange albatross we’re talking about.

 

► President Trump has a new nominee for Labor Secretary. Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday, on account of the fact that he had no chance of winning confirmation from the Senate. The new nominee is Alexander Acosta, dean of the Florida International University School of Law and a former member of the National Labor Relations Board.

The Washington Post takes a look at how Puzder’s nomination went so completely off the rails, while Politico previews trouble ahead for the new nominee.

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) thinks that we should investigate the FBI after the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. From CBS Denver:

Rep. Mike Coffman agrees with Republicanson the House Ethics Committee who don’t think President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn needs to be investigated for ethics violations following his ouster over interactions with Russian officials…

…Controversy still lingers over the White House’s handling of the brief tenure of Flynn, who continued to advise the president weeks after the Department of Justice warned the administration of Flynn’s conduct on the phone with Russia’s ambassador.

“I want to see that transcript to see if there are other conversations that he had is worthwhile finding out, but I also think it’s important to move on,” Coffman said. [Pols emphasis]

Move along!

 

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Running for Office in 2018? “Did You Vote for Trump?”

Victor Mitchell (seen here before he turns into a bat).

John Frank of the Denver Post takes a look at the gubernatorial candidacy of Republican Victor Mitchell, and the interview includes a very important answer to what will likely be the most-asked question of 2018:

His pitch may draw comparisons to President Donald Trump, but Mitchell didn’t vote for the Republican nominee. Instead, he voted for third-party candidate Evan Mcmullen. [Pols emphasis]

“I’ve been a lifelong Republican, but I couldn’t get there,” he said. “My son’s a West Point cadet. And the way (Trump) spoke about women was very concerning.”

Mark this down in your political notebooks, friends. With Mitchell on the record saying he didn’t vote for Trump, there is no place for any other 2018 candidate to hide when asked about their 2016 choice for President. “Did you vote for Donald Trump?” is an absolute no-brainer question for every candidate seeking public office in the next couple of years.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 15)

Welcome, comrades! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may be gone, but the Russian cloud enveloping the White House isn’t dissipating one bit. As the New York Times reports today in its lead story:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election…

…The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the D.N.C., according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

As the Washington Post writes this morning:

The credibility gap – maybe chasm is a better word at this point – keeps widening for Donald Trump and his White House.

And what does President Trump have to say about all of this? As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix”:

Trump’s response to these serious allegations, which have already cost him his national security adviser and now threaten the foundations of his presidency, has been decidedly flippant.  In a tweetstorm Wednesday morning, Trump blamed the “fake news” media and Hillary Clinton for the stories and sought to pivot the conversation to how the information regarding the contacts between his campaign and the Russians leaked out…

…Given the seriousness of those allegations, tweets about the Clinton campaign or the “fake news” aren’t going to cut it.  Congressional Republicans are getting more and more worried that this situation is spinning out of control and has the possibility to do serious damage to the entire party less than a month into the Trump presidency.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — has been rather quiet about the White House Russia scandal. In an interview with Denver7 on Tuesday, Gardner said…well, nothing, really. Gardner seems to be falling apart in general under the strain of his 100% voting record with Trump.

Meanwhile, Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) is pushing for a full investigation into the Trump administration’s ties with Russia. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is also pushing for an official inquiry.

 

► Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is suing Boulder County for its unwillingness to open up its lands for oil and gas drilling.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

First Amendment attorney says Sentinel could have a viable case against State Senator

(Uh oh, Ray Scott… – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

The publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel is serious about suing State Sen. Ray Scott over his public claim that the Grand Junction Sentinel is “fake news.”

But, he told Denver writer Corey Hutchins, “we’re going to have some cooling-off period before I file anything.”

Hutchins, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project: This particular publisher, it should be noted, is no stranger to a courtroom. Before taking the helm of the Sentinel in 2009, Seaton was a commercial litigator. “This is what I used to do,” he told me. “I practiced law in Kansas City for 13 years, so I’m accustomed to resolving business damage in the judicial system. So I don’t view this really as any different.”

The publisher says he has already seen people on Facebook pledge to cancel newspaper subscriptions after the lawmaker’s comments.

“What I consider actionable is the attack on the Sentinel as fake news,” Seaton says. “I can take the criticism that we’re too far right, or we’re too far left, or our reporter was sloppy, or our editorial misunderstands the issue, that I can handle. What I can’t abide is an attack on the essence of what we do.”

Hutchins quotes Denver First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg, as saying that “Scott could be liable under libel law if he made statements that are provably false and made “with the requisite knowledge of their falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.”

Does this mean Donald Trump is in line to be sued by CNN and others, who the President has attacked as fake news outlets? I hope so.

Sen. Ray Scott/Grand Junction Sentinel Pissing Match Explodes

UPDATE: Bring it, says Sen. Ray Scott:

—–

Don’t f— with Jay Seaton.

We wrote on Friday about Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction’s over-the-top response to an editorial in the Grand Junction Sentinel–an editorial calling out Sen. Scott for inexplicably delaying debate on a bill to reform the public records process. Scott reacted with a bizarre tirade, denouncing the Sentinel as “fake news” and some other weird stuff about splashing ink in their face.

It wasn’t super coherent.

But Jay Seaton, the owner and publisher of the Sentinel, is responding to Scott’s bellicosity with the full hellish fury of a rich man scorned:

On Wednesday of last week, The Daily Sentinel opined in an editorial that Sen. Scott should give the bill a hearing and pass it on to the full Senate for a vote: “SB 40 deserves a fair hearing before the full Senate. We call on our own Sen. Scott to announce a new committee hearing date and move this bill forward.”

…Setting aside for the moment the mischaracterizations and mistakes in Sen. Scott’s tweet, (though it is true we were not able to reach him about why he canceled the hearing) the concern for me is the allegation that the Sentinel peddles “fake news.”

True, this term has become part of the national vernacular as some kind of general pejorative, but I take this allegation from Sen. Scott very seriously. It attacks the very reason for our existence…

It is important for newspapers to have thick skins, to absorb criticism when it comes our way and not respond to every slight, real or perceived. That said, there is a difference between criticism of a news story, editorial stance or perceived bias and what Sen. Scott has done. His tweet is patently, provably false.

Worse, he made his false statement knowingly for the purpose of diminishing the only real asset this newspaper has: its credibility.

Imagine the backlash if this newspaper publicly assailed someone based on no facts and invented things out of thin air for the purposes of impugning their character. We could be sued — and we’d deserve it.

I don’t think I can sit back and take this kind of attack from an elected official. We are brokers in facts. Words have real meaning in this business. Sen. Scott has defamed this company and me as its leader.

To borrow a phrase from another famous Twitter user, I’ll see you in court. [Pols emphasis]

So…if we’re reading that correctly, Seaton is going to sue Sen. Scott to defamation? It’s not for us to comment on the legal efficacy of such a lawsuit based on the subject matter in dispute, but we’re pretty sure Jay Seaton has a lot more money than Ray Scott. As President-elect Donald Trump will happily tell you, the financial resources to file and sustain a lawsuit against a less-wealthy detractor often matters more.

Pop some popcorn and stay tuned!